The Independence Day fireworks show will go on, says Mike Lockhart, of the Wallowa Lake Tourism Association. He said Monday, June 15, that there are just a couple of details yet to work out with the pyrotechnics contractor and with financing the event.
“Everything will be going on,” he said. “We want to make sure we do everything that’s required by the regulations involving any public demonstration and our belief in the things the Fourth of July stands for.”
Lockhart declined to say just how much has been raised toward this year’s show, but he said the tourist association has been a major contributor and donations have been coming from all over the community.
“We’ve been talking to people who have traditionally donated,” he said. “I can’t believe the support we’re getting,” he said.
In the past, the approximately 25-minute show over Wallowa Lake has cost about $14,000. It was largely funded by the Wallowa County Chamber of Commerce. Lockhart said he managed to negotiate a lower cost for a show of approximately the same duration.
This year, the chamber declined to fund the Independence Day show. Chamber Director Vicki Searles cited concerns that those watching it could violate Gov. Kate Brown’s restrictions on crowd size and social distancing imposed in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. There also was a concern such a gathering could trigger further spread of the disease and bring penalties on the county, Searles said.
Searles said the chamber hopes to once again put on the event next year.
The Wallowa County Commission also has provided funds for the show in previous years. Commissioner Susan Roberts said that was usually about $2,000 from the transient lottery tax, which is usually earmarked for economic development. However, with the pandemic shutdown, few are gambling and the money wasn’t there.
“We just changed how we’re expending funds,” she said.
Despite not providing funds, the county is “in spirt” behind the venture, Roberts said.
“Yeah, it’s Independence Day,” she said. “We have a group of private citizens who want to pay for it, and as long as they follow the (social distancing) guidelines, we support it.”
Lockhart said that following distancing guidelines will be key to a successful show.
“It’ll be a demonstration like any other demonstration where people can come and express their patriotism,” he said.
Lockhart said they haven’t decided to use the traditional “Shake the Lake” moniker for the event. Searles had said previously that the name isn’t trademarked and Lockhart’s group is free to use it.